Message from the President - 19 March 2021

One year on from the announcement of lockdown, Russell reflects on this unprecedented time; from death and hardship to the monumental efforts made by the NHS and the scientific community at large.

A year ago today I remember listening to the Prime Minister announce we were going into lockdown. We locked down then with the expectation that life might return to normal after a few weeks. I sometimes wonder how people would have reacted if we knew then the extent of what we were about to go through. 

It's been a long and difficult year– and particularly those who’ve been on the frontline or have lost friends and family. We will remember it as an extraordinary and historic period. Even the vantage point of a year on is far too close to really take stock of what we’ve been through. 

The next few years will undoubtedly be a difficult one for us and for the children and young people we serve.

The pandemic has been a complicated story - one that will be impossible to forget. We’ve experienced a collective trauma that has touched every single human in the country. It’s brought death and hardship and has brutally exposed the parts of our society and economy that were already barely functioning. Our children and young people have suffered greatly from collateral damage in the fight against the virus – experiencing what some are calling the ‘shadow pandemic’. The next few years will undoubtedly be a difficult one for us and for the children and young people we serve. 

But COVID has also been a story of hope, immense resilience, and scientific triumph. If you’d told me last Spring that we would be in a position where most of the medical workforce and much of the public would be vaccinated by now, I would have struggled to take it seriously. I’m also proud of this country adopting the policy that schools should be the last to close and first to open – surprisingly in contrast to some other wealthy countries; the joy of seeing schools across the UK reopen in the last few weeks will stay with me for some time. 

I think each of us will have reflected a little during the last few days, whether it’s memories of where you were, the first case you saw, or something relating to your family or friends. While I know it has been hard for you all (in many different ways), I do hope you take some solace in knowing that you played your part in holding the country together during a period – actually several periods – in which we were pushed to the brink. The efforts of the NHS across the four UK nations and the scientific community at large have been nothing short of immense, and while the wider politics of COVID-19 has often been difficult, your individual role will be remembered by those who depended on you, and your collective effort by history and the public.

...volunteering as a vaccinator over Christmas started to awaken a sense of optimism that has, little by little, grown every day since.

For me personally, being part of the fight at the national level gave me a sense of purpose during the bleaker days, and volunteering as a vaccinator over Christmas started to awaken a sense of optimism that has, little by little, grown every day since. It’s also allowed me to cope with not seeing my very elderly parents in Australia for 18 months and the realisation I won’t see them for at least another year (I remind them occasionally they have a duty not to die until we can visit). 

...the sheer breadth of our activity, big and small, has been extraordinary and makes a difference for the children and young people we serve.

Clearly, the College has had to work in new and sometimes challenging ways during the last year. I do want to say thank you to the many people who kept the show on the road often while coping with difficult circumstances themselves. Some of these efforts, like our campaigning on mental health or free school meals, have been very evident. But much of the vital work that makes the College function is unseen and not always recognised. I’ve been proud to be associated with RCPCH this last year and, whether delivering remote exams, making our technology work so well remotely, developing a case definition for PIMS, influencing policy on shielding, or remotely supporting our international development work during the pandemic – the sheer breadth of our activity, big and small, has been extraordinary and makes a difference for the children and young people we serve.

Thanks also for the many replies to these emails (lovely to know they’re read) and for the huge support you’ve given to me and to the College. We literally could not have done it without you.

I want to close by giving a warm welcome to our incoming Vice President for Education and Professional Development Dr Jonathan Darling, and Vice President for Training and Assessment Dr Cathryn Chadwick. Congratulations to them both and thanks to all the candidates. Lastly, a plug! If you missed the launch of Paediatrics 2040, you can watch it back here.
 

That’s all for now

Russell


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